The Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board, with the support of the Walker Art Center, is seeking $8.5 million in state bonding to fund a major renovation of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, one of the region’s most beloved public spaces. A joint project of the Walker and the Park Board, this important landmark and model of civic collaboration has become an integral part of Minnesota life, attracting more than seven million people since it opened in 1988. The bonding measure would repair and renovate the Garden’s deteriorating infrastructure as well as improve its environmental sustainability, energy efficiency, and “green” design. Supporters of the measure are encouraged to contact their state legislators. Visit garden.walkerart.org/bonding to draft and send e-mails of support.
When the Walker and the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board partnered in 1988 to create the first major urban sculpture garden in the country, the vision, still very much alive today, was to combine an amazing outdoor space with world-class art and culture—two assets for which the state is renowned. The Garden’s centerpiece, the fountain-sculpture Spoonbridge and Cherry by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, has become a de-facto symbol for the community. Free to the public every day of the year, the Garden attracts both tourists, who consider it a major outdoor and cultural destination, and residents who wish to experience its greenery, world-class modern and contemporary sculptures, and free seasonal performances and family programs. Thousands of students and hundreds of school groups from across Minnesota and the region visit each year. The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden’s downtown location and proximity to Loring Park make it a vital segment of the Grand Rounds and Minneapolis’ chain of lakes, as well as a link between the city’s business and residential communities.
“For more than two decades, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden has welcomed visitors into our park system and introduced them to the state’s remarkable arts community,” says Walker director Olga Viso. “Nearly everyone goes home with their own iconic image snapped in front of Spoonbridge and Cherry.”
After a careful study, the prominent landscape architecture firm Oslund and Associates has recommended a range of necessary upgrades throughout the 11-acre Garden. Tom Oslund notes that “By taking advantage of efficiency improvements in mechanical systems and lighting in the past 20 years, we can significantly reduce the Garden’s carbon footprint. For instance, an eco-friendly irrigation system would allow us to capture rainwater runoff to maintain the plants. And improvements to the drainage system, as well as repairs to concrete walkways and granite walls, which were not designed with the expectation of millions of visitors, will allow us to preserve the unique experience of visiting the grounds.”
“Every garden has a natural life cycle, and plants periodically need to be refreshed. For instance, the lifespan of arborvitae—the trees that create the walls of the Sculpture Garden’s outdoor galleries—is about 20 years,” added Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board superintendant Jon Gurban. “Also, in a place as heavily trafficked as the Garden, significant infrastructure needs must be addressed to maintain this vibrant public space.”
The scope of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden renovation project includes a number of major infrastructure upgrades—concrete, granite, sidewalk, and lighting fixture repair and replacement; improvements to the Garden’s irrigation and security systems; transplanting, removing, and replanting a mixed variety of plant material, grass, and trees (including pines, lindens, oaks, maples, and arborvitae, all of which have peaked in terms of their standard urban life cycle); and work related to the Cowles Conservatory.
This Minneapolis Sculpture Garden renovation project will ensure that the Garden remains one of the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board’s crown jewels, providing Minnesotans and tourists with a remarkable space in which to escape and experience today’s finest outdoor plantings and sculpture. In addition, the project will have an immediate impact on the local economy, driving construction and landscaping purchases and significant employment.